Black and minority ethnic-owned companies in Croydon claim the council is ignoring their call out for support.
Croydon is one of the most diverse boroughs in London, as well as areas in England and Wales, according to new ONS census data. Despite this, BAME-owned businesses feel that the local council in Croydon and other investees such as the Mayor of London’s Fund, still do not do enough to support them, compared to white businesses in the more affluent areas of the borough, such as the town centre.
After the 2011 riots on London Road, many shops burned down. The Mayor’s Regeneration Fund was set up by Boris Johnson the same year to re-invest money into the devastated businesses and flats. However, 11 years on, the traders on London Road feel that was the last time investment or support was shown to the area and has since become neglected. Today, the Mayor’s Fund still invests in Croydon but has moved away from London Road and is focusing on the centre of Croydon and the Old Town.
Jameelah Saltus-Brinson from Soul Vegan, a restaurant in BOXPARK in the centre of Croydon spoke to Eastlondonline and said: “The council could provide more opportunities for businesses from marginalised communities. They could make us aware of profitable contracts, funding, grants and tendering opportunities.”
While they feel that partnering with BOXPARK in the centre has a great advantage to them, they feel sometimes they are still not taken seriously: “As a female black-owned company, we’ve had times in professional settings where people have asked irrelevant questions, made inappropriate comments, judged us unfairly based on our race, and made unwarranted presumptions. Having to face discrimination when working hard to progress can be tiring.”
Councillor Patsy Cummings, who campaigns for race equality in Croydon said spoke on how it is the BAME-owned businesses outside of the town centre that will be hit the hardest. She said: “In terms of the funding, most investment into Croydon will go into the town centre, but the city corridor [London Road] will get left out. It is the BAME businesses that suffer the most.”
David Johnson from Shades and Beauty hair salon on London Road told Eastlondonlines: “My clients pay cash, and I will have to walk with them to the cash point because there is a high number of beggars and violent crimes happening in the area. There are two shops I can think of that have to lock their doors, and only open them if they see a customer coming in.”
“Broad Green avenue has a larger number of black-owned businesses than anywhere in Croydon. Half of the businesses down there don’t know any of the MPs or anyone representing the Croydon area because they don’t come up here.”
Karen Robotham, who owns Mackay’s Jamaican Kitchen, a cake business on London Road, feels like she has never heard from the council about investment into London Road. She said: “I really don’t have a lot of experience with them, which tells it all. I feel like this area is pretty much neglected, in terms of businesses and the general road itself. You can walk outside and there is rubbish everywhere, it is heavily neglected in every way.”
She also spoke on how living along London Road in a council-owned flat “Even as we speak the flat we are living in now, there is scaffolding everywhere. The flat maintenance has been neglected for so long that we have had to take it up with solicitors.”
Cummings said the cost-of-living crisis is intensified for businesses along London Road: “The cost of living means that some businesses can’t even put their machines on for hours at a time, as well as some businesses only being open for fewer days than they should. After April next year, the subsidy from the government will stop. There are 14,000 microbusinesses in Croydon, and they are being hit very hard, with BAME businesses further marginalised.”
Last year, the council distributed more than £70m to businesses in the borough, but Johnson and others in the area believe no investment was seen in Broad Green.
He said: “They [the council] do not invest in our area. They said they would move bollards on our road, they haven’t done that, they haven’t invested in any parking for our shops.”
According to newly released ONS data, ethnicity percentages have shifted over the past ten years. In 2021, 51.6% of Croydon’s population identify as another ethnicity other than white.
Government data shows that in 2019, 5.1% of UK small and medium enterprise (SME) employers were majority-led by ethnic minorities (excluding White minorities).
Despite the majority of Croydon’s population identifying as having a BAME background, business owners feel there is not enough being done in the council to represent and support their livelihoods.